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London Mayoral Elections: Candidates get TV grilling

Zac Goldsmith, Sian Berry, Peter Whittle, host Andrew Neil, Caroline Pidgeon and Sadiq Khan following a Image copyright John Stillwell
Image caption "Ringmaster" Andrew Neil meets the candidates

There is much huff and puff in political campaigns, and the breathing gets just a little harder as polling day draws near.

Harder still when you're just about to face Andrew Neil in full flow and defend your policies.

No surprise then that the candidates wanting to replace Boris Johnson as Mayor of London were going through their breathing exercises before facing their inquisition in front of an audience of Londoners.

With just over two weeks until the people of the capital vote, five of the main candidates lined up for their biggest TV debate - their arguments have been well rehearsed over a campaign that's already been in full swing for weeks, and the questions are ones that have dogged the campaign too.

But there's something a bit different about the big lights - the big cameras - and the potentially big audience sitting at home.

Image copyright Elvis
Image caption Andrew Neil says debates "do matter"

The ringmaster general, Andrew Neil, has seen a few of these debates come and go over the years. So do they matter?

"I think debates do matter, yes," he said.

"People are tested, the audience get them under pressure, to see the cut of their jib it really helps to create an impression either positive or negative."

And so to battle, with questions from Londoners on issues from security, to fares on public transport, and to the capital's place in or out of Europe.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Housing is the biggest issue of this campaign.

All important but all overshadowed by what all the candidates agree is the biggest issue of this campaign - housing.

"What" asked one audience member, was an affordable home? "How" wondered another, would her son ever be able to own a home in the city he's grown up in?

The answer from Zac Goldsmith (Conservative), Sadiq Khan, (Labour) Sian Berry (Green) and Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) was to build more - all say London needs to be building around 50,000 new homes every year, which is twice what it's doing at the moment.

UKIP's Peter Whittle says it is more of an issue of stopping people coming to the capital.

They are answers from all we've heard before but not ones that convinced the audience of Londoners.

Barely half a dozen hands were raised when they were asked if they believed that 50,000 homes a year would be built.

Barely a hand stayed down when they were asked if they thought their children wouldn't be able to afford to buy a home in London.

Promises come thick and fast during all election campaigns but Londoners are generally a fairly cynical bunch - the candidates have just over a fortnight to convince them that promises are just more than words.

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